I thought about writing this blog long before I took the initiative to actually sit down and write and that’s mostly because of continual encouragement from my husband who really wanted me to write my auto biography. The thought of writing a book felt overwhelming because I wasn’t confident in my ability to tell my story in chronological order. Ironically, once I committed to the process the story flowed and in chronological order. I summarized the first 21 years of my life into 8 chapters.
I really hope my readers feel connected to my words enough to gauge who the writer is behind the screen. Writing this blog is therapeutic and has deepened my thoughts and emotions throughout the process. I’ve had some “Aha” moments about people and circumstances. Some good, some not so good. My Christmas card list is now very small and the obligatory gift giving list has diminished. I’ve freed myself from the obligation of phone calls, sentimental gestures and freely giving to anyone who doesn’t reciprocate the effort or appreciate me. I’ve also freed myself of people who I know have lied to me, especially the ones who think they got away with it. I don’t care if our names are or were the same, our relationships are not. It truly is their loss. So… go me!! This new found clarity of who these people really are and changing their place in my life has set me free. I show them as much love and compassion as they’ve shown me…so, hopefully they aren’t expecting much.
The thing is… I could have privately written a journal for the therapy part of this and it would have benefited only me. My life story has shaped my view of the world and people from a diverse perspective. As our political and social climate is under duress, I find myself battling with keeping to the timeline because I really do have some great stories to share but that would steer me away from my original purpose which was to share my real life experience and attempt to build a bridge of understanding between people with opposing views. A journal is a gift to me. Sharing my truth publicly is my gift to you.
I’m not here to shape your views or impose mine. There is plenty of that to read everywhere. What I want is to share some harsh truths that have given me the ability to gain perspective without choosing a side. It has allowed me to take an informed position without all the media frenzied distractions. So, please forgive me for jumping ahead. I’m sure you were waiting on pins and needles to hear all about my Portland adventures at 21 years old, right? My Portland peeps deserve the shout out! They were with me through the most fun and enlightening period of my life. I will definitely come back to share the social parts. I even have some great photos of those days in an old sticky page photo album. You know, before digital photography? Dating myself a little here.
Portland is not where my career began because I was employed for years before I moved there but it was where I learned about changing careers with no experience in a new field. It’s where I learned I could work a full time job, a part time job and an on call job all at once, and I did. I worked 3 jobs.
When I headed northwest for the 2nd time I knew I did not want to go back to office work. My friends and former employer were still in the area and allowed me to stay with them while I put myself through Bartending School in downtown Portland, Oregon where I eventually moved to. We lived in Washington but at the most southern point where the two states were divided by the Columbia River. My commute was about 30 minutes as long as the draw bridge on I-5 didn’t raise up to allow a ship to pass.
I love Portland. It’s a beautiful city and I think it’s my favorite of the 13 cities I’ve lived in. The school was only 2 weeks and required that I memorized 250 drinks. I don’t know how but I remembered every one. I still know what’s in a “Freddy Fuddpucker” which is ironic because it’s been 20 years and I’ve never been asked to make one.
I graduated with an “A” which felt pretty good to me because I didn’t graduate high school and never thought of college as an option. So, its bartending school and you can say, “so what?” if you want to. I say… bartending is more than perfecting a spicy Bloody Mary or filling a frozen glass with draft beer to form a perfect head. It’s a talent and a skill. Bartenders…well, a good bartender, is an expert at reading people. You have to be. Everyone you are serving reacts differently to alcohol and you better know how to tell who is safe to serve and who needs to be hydrated with water instead. Giving the wrong person one too many drinks can make or break your shift and even your career. I know this because after a cocktail waitress over served a violent drunk on my shift, chaos ensued and I got hit in the face with a pool cue.
Yes… in case you were wondering, in this culture where we insist that men should never hit a woman, it was a man who hit me. I was 24 and he was in his mid 50’s. I can’t imagine I was the first woman he hit because it wasn’t even a second thought. He hit me deliberately and with a full swing straight across my cheek and jaw. He was black out drunk and angry. I walked into the game room because I heard shouting. I tried to reason with him, he called me the lovely “C” word and took a swing. Do you know who was held accountable for the situation? ME!! I was not serving the man personally. I was making drinks behind the bar and the waitress was serving him on the floor. As the person behind the bar, I was responsible for everyone in the room. Even people I physically could not see from the bar.
Do you realize that when you are a difficult bar patron who demands doubles, micro manages a pour or try to flirt for free drinks, the bartender is responsible for you? The level of responsibility for serving and over serving varies from state to state but it is financial, legal and in some cases can prevent a person from obtaining the required permits to ever work in that state again. Oregon is very strict and I’m thankful I was trained to work under their strict regulations because I understood the liability of serving alcohol and took it very seriously from the beginning. I have never consumed a drop of alcohol behind a bar and never would. It’s a job, not a party. How many shots do you buy your bartender before they are too drunk to make perfect change or serve you a well-made drink?
I worked a short time for a bar in Hayward, California later in my career. The owner was a womanizing pig who sat at the bar and drank from sun up to sundown. He micro managed my every pour and not to the favor of his bottom line revenue. He gave away more than he ever sold and his bar hosted a clientele of people who knew to come in after 2 because the owner was too drunk to sell a drink. He just gave it away and it was a drunken free for all. I really didn’t care. It was his money but he often tried to force me to serve people who were too drunk to form a sentence and it bothered me. For all of California’s regulations, it surprised me that they were so loose with alcohol service requirements. No permits required, no personal liability and you can drink while you work as long as the boss allows it. That’s a healthy choice for everyone, right? Is there an adult in the room? Anyone? Lol. Now, this was 17 years ago and the rules could have changed but as far as I know, going shot for shot with your customer is perfectly acceptable in the state. I’m sure that’s never gone horribly wrong…
Bartending in Portland introduced me to a whole new life and reality. It led me to my first corporate hotel experience and by far the most organized food & beverage operation I’ve ever had the privilege to work in. No company I’ve worked for since could measure up. I worked for sole proprietors too. Both workplaces taught me how to read people. It also taught me how to manage human cruelty. Because I was obese, I experienced verbal abuse, mostly by men. Getting hit in the face was a wrong place, wrong time thing but it taught me a valuable lesson and the physical wound healed. Getting hit was the least painful.
There was a regular who came into a bar I worked at. He refused to let me serve him because, “he didn’t want to have to stare at a fatty,” which were the words he used when complaining to the manager. I was a new employee. Instead of asking him to leave, they listened to him as though he was complaining about a cold meal or bad service. Then, “since he comes here a lot,” they apologized TO HIM for his upset and told him he could sit at the bar but have a cocktail waitress serve him instead. I’ll tell you now… the biggest mistake a customer can make on my watch is to disrespect my employee. The customer is not always right and I’ve asked several to exit the building. You don’t fuck with my people. I will protect them even if it means a consequence to me. It’s never ok to be abusive. Period. If you’ve worked for me, you probably know this.
This is where it all ties together for me. This is where my story will take you to a place where I can talk about being a woman in the workplace, front line and executive. I can share how companies allow employees to be verbally abused by customers based on “regular” status or how much they spend. Why is money the root of all evil? Because having it gives you extra privileges which often includes spending enough that you get a free pass for being an asshole. In my world, your money doesn’t make you pretty. In fact, with exception, I’ve known money to make people ugly and greedy.
I have a deep hatred for Corporate America because of its crooked nature. The working conditions in the Laughlin casino industry burned a hole in my soul. I affectionately refer to Laughlin as “Exile Island for bad managers,” because it is.
I have witnessed racism, sexism, age discrimination and been a victim of the male dominated “good ol’ boys club.” I was actually told by a WOMAN in HR (off the record) after I addressed a very serious situation with a male executive that my situation was unacceptable but that we are part of a “good ol’ boys club” and you’ll never get anywhere. She wasn’t lying. They did not handle it and he went on the hurt others. In fact, he still is. I know because I still hear from former employees today who are struggling and seek my help. They can just go work somewhere else, right? No, not really. The other opportunities in the area are the same circumstances, different building. People have to work to eat. They can’t just throw their hands up and leave because the work environment is awful.
Women are definitely not equal in the workplace or in life but we fail to support one another too often. Women compete. Many women compete until they realize they can’t win by using their brain. That’s when the dress comes off and the under desk blowies come in. That’s one way to advance. I’ve seen it. These aren’t the smartest or most deserving women but they used their vagina to cut the line. Nice job ladies. Way to build and demand respect. Women like that make life hell for the rest of us who carry ourselves with integrity. Men are guilty of treating women poorly but ladies, are you giving them fuel? I’m not going down the road of saying that a woman deserves to be raped because she wore a skimpy dress. That is sick and wrong!! I’m saying that if women want to be respected, treated equally and seen as a professional, then we need to carry ourselves in a respectful way. We need to look out for one another!! Don’t flirt with a difficult male coworker to make him hear you. He won’t hear you at all. He will appease you. He will also disregard women who don’t flirt to inflate his ego. Sorry fellas, with respect, you have 2 brains and the one in your pants can take control of the one on your shoulders. They typically don’t work at the same time.
It doesn’t matter if it is personal or professional. It doesn’t even change when it comes to matters of the heart. My dad raised me to take care of him, the man of the house, because my mom left when I was 10 with cooking, cleaning and child raising responsibilities. I guess that was woman’s work. I was molded to comply. I was to be seen and not heard while handling it all. I was criticized and emotionally abused into thinking I was not doing enough. No matter what I did, it wasn’t enough. Funny how dads effect daughters.
I was sexually abused by my paternal grandfather when I was 9. I’m sure my dad was horrified and embarrassed so he said, “I’m just so glad he didn’t hurt you as bad as the other girls.” That’s the last we discussed it. I lived with the aftermath in silence because we just didn’t talk about uncomfortable stuff. My mom’s married boyfriend couldn’t keep his hands off of me either. He liked to grope and grab in subtle ways through my clothes… for years. Thanks, Mom, for loving him over protecting me. She refused to believe me and continued to date him until I was 23. I hope he gave her the best 14 years of her life because she is dead now and so is a piece of me. If sexual abuse in my family wasn’t enough, a high school friend got drunk and forced himself on me after our senior year. It was someone I trusted and it broke my heart. I was able to fight him off and defend myself but it destroyed me inside. I stayed away from men until my early 20s. I met my first boyfriend in Portland. I was 22, he was 47. That didn’t end well.
I’ve been in 3 committed long term relationships with men and I married the 3rd. 2 out of 3 hit me. 3 out of 3 cheated on me. In case you are wondering… I never cheated on or hit any of them. In fact, if I think about it, I took care of all 3 in every way, just like I was taught and it still wasn’t enough. Cooking, cleaning, bill paying, working, etc. I’m not perfect but they wanted for nothing. I handled it all. I’ve spent my life trying to understand what I did to deserve this. I didn’t deserve it at all but the damage is done. Now, I love others deeply but trust only me. Can you blame me?
I love men. I have some wonderful men in my life but let me just say, from my view… men have never been my protectors. I will repeat… no man has ever stood his ground to protect or defend me, ever! I have protected myself from men, though. I have protected myself in situations where a man should have and didn’t. Omg… this brings me to a feeling of hysteria as I’m realizing in this moment that I have spent my life coddling, protecting and defending men. You know, the dominant species according to some. No.. women run the show and we make you look awesome. You’re welcome. For the amazing, kick ass men out there, please accept my apology for the generalization. You receive full credit for being a unicorn and you are appreciated. You are, however, the minority.
The better I treat men, the more they trample me. Let’s not forget the ladies who contribute, though. If there weren’t woman out there willing to cheat and compete, men would have a harder time. If moms would put daughters before lovers, there would be less broken little girls. Ladies… we can help each other to gain common respect, more solidarity please! I won’t compete with any woman for a man’s attention. There are no locks holding any man hostage in my life. They choose me or they don’t, period.
I have been mansplained and literally threatened by men in the work place, mostly by insecure men. I have been caught in the middle of a racism war that could have been resolved, not escalated. Our corporate culture fuels discrimination and addresses HR issues differently depending on the person’s nationality. This is an unspoken truth. If you are African American, your “disciplinary” process may be modified to ensure the corporation won’t be sued for discrimination later, even if the discipline is a legitimate response to poor performance with documented proof. Your skin color wasn’t an issue until they made it one. Instead of respecting you as a human, they have decided that being black makes you a bigger liability to terminate and they modify the discussion to be overly sensitive rather than sticking to the facts about your work performance. How dumb! It’s their paranoia that creates this. Not the person or their performance issue which gets lost in politics. This creates a division because it appears to some employees as special privileges. That person IS being treated differently and given additional chances so the perception is real. It is not the persons fault, though. It’s the corporations fault for managing poorly and creating unwritten procedures which change when an employee is black, LGBTQ, female or speaks with an accent. How do you think the white employee sees it when they are managed by the book? Truth is, you are both being screwed and you are hating one another because of the corporate culture that molded your opinion. This is why I have always encouraged employee solidarity and an open door policy as a manager. HR doesn’t care to help you. You are a liability and if you speak too loudly, you will be replaced.
Have you ever worked for a corporation as a front line person to start then moved into an executive position? It’s enlightening to see how executives strategize to accomplish quarterly profits because it usually involves more work for you with less resources. You are human capital and you will get it done no matter how ludicrous or impossible the task. You will be set up for failure time and again. You will come to work with a better idea than the guy in the suit but you will be called negative and be accused of not being a team player because you disagree with the approach or understand why the task is impossible. You will go to work every day wondering which idiot asked you fit a square peg into a round hole. That idiot is the same guy who cares more about quarterly budgets and profits which guarantee his or her bonuses. They don’t care if you make a livable wage or that you worked 13 days in a row. This is not an innocent mistake. When I read discussions about wages, healthcare, corporations and taxes it makes me cringe because what I hear is people giving power to the institution that is not considering them at all.
Corporations are not people. Corporations don’t care about people. You are an employee number with a title and your pay fits into their budget. If your responsibility increases and their budget doesn’t, you will do more for less or be replaced. You go to work hoping for growth and financial prosperity so you give it your all. Are you getting paid any more or just going in circles trying to prove you are worthy? Doesn’t matter, friend. You and your great ideas are not in the budget. Now, get back to work.
PART 1 (STAY TUNED FOR PART 2)